riteshuttamchandani

Ritesh Uttamchandani (@riteshuttamchandani) /riteshuttamchandani
Three hours away from Pathak, in a village called Amilo, lives a jovial man named Lal Bihari. Also known now as Lal Bihari Mritak - Lal Bihari The Dead. In 1975, his uncle, in cahoots with a civil servant, pronounced him legally dead to usurp his ancestral land. Flummoxed, Bihari who was seeking a loan from a bank for his handloom business, pleaded that he is indeed alive and eager to kick a few people to prove it. He realized soon enough that the rot runs deep and conventional solutions aren’t going to help. Bihari has a wicked sense of humour, commonly found in rural India, which he deployed strategically in coming back from the dead. One fine day, he organized his own funeral and demanded compensation for his “widow”. Another time, he kidnapped his uncle’s son Baburam in the hope that a complaint is made with the cops but that didn’t happen. He had no idea what to do with the boy and ended up taking him to the cinema everyday before sending him back. He stormed the Legislative Assembly, screamed, “Mujhe Zinda Karo - Make Me Alive” but that only got him temporary arrest. Bihari then sold some more property to contest elections against 2 prime ministers - V P Singh and Rajiv Gandhi. He did manage 1600 votes and his final resurrection was as dramatic as his death as it took yet another threat for the order to come through in 1994. Over time Bihari learnt that there are thousands of such people in the country and it prompted him to establish Mritak Sangh, a society to help the “living dead”. Most of them are not as well off as he is and some are so old and poor that they can’t sustain the fight. Lal Bihari too didn’t take back his land from his cousin for he knows they need it more than him. After our photograph was done, Baburam set up a charpoy in what was once Bihari’s land and is now his lush paddy field. He served us tea, sweetened with jaggery and together they laughed about those old days! This photograph is part of a trio of portraits I made of people who court/use/suffer due to the “business” of death. Minor coincidence, that the protagonists are all from Uttar Pradesh!Three hours away from Pathak, in a village called Amilo, lives a jovial man named Lal Bihari. Also known now as Lal Bihari Mritak - Lal Bihari The Dead. 
In 1975, his uncle, in cahoots with a civil servant, pronounced him legally dead to usurp his ancestral land. Flummoxed, Bihari who was seeking a loan from a bank for his handloom business, pleaded that he is indeed alive and eager to kick a few people to prove it. He realized soon enough that the rot runs deep and conventional solutions aren’t going to help. 
Bihari has a wicked sense of humour, commonly found in rural India, which he deployed strategically in coming back from the dead. One fine day, he organized his own funeral and demanded compensation for his “widow”. Another time, he kidnapped his uncle’s son Baburam in the hope that a complaint is made with the cops but that didn’t happen. He had no idea what to do with the boy and ended up taking him to the cinema everyday before sending him back. He stormed the Legislative Assembly, screamed, “Mujhe Zinda Karo - Make Me Alive” but that only got him temporary arrest. Bihari then sold some more property to contest elections against 2 prime ministers - V P Singh and Rajiv Gandhi. He did manage 1600 votes and his final resurrection was as dramatic as his death as it took yet another threat for the order to come through in 1994. 
Over time Bihari learnt that there are thousands of such people in the country and it prompted him to establish Mritak Sangh, a society to help the “living dead”. Most of them are not as well off as he is and some are so old and poor that they can’t sustain the fight. Lal Bihari too didn’t take back his land from his cousin for he knows they need it more than him. After our photograph was done, Baburam set up a charpoy in what was once Bihari’s land and is now his lush paddy field. He served us tea, sweetened with jaggery and together they laughed about those old days!

This photograph is part of a trio of portraits I made of people who court/use/suffer due to the “business” of death. Minor coincidence, that the protagonists are all from Uttar Pradesh!source: https://www.instagram.com/riteshuttamchandani

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